Column: Yelp for Peeple? Total disaster.

The Internet can be a pretty terrifying place. With trolls and cyber-bullies lurking around every corner, it seems like the mere act of having a social presence on the Internet is opening yourself up to intense scrutiny.

While cyber-bullying is becoming increasingly well recognized as an issue by parents, schools and legislators, the prevalence of cruelty online only appears to be increasing.

As if there weren’t enough forums for people to be unpleasant online, a new app called Peeple promises to conveniently bring all the worst features of the digital age into a single forum.

Peeple is basically Yelp for people. Users of the app can assign their fellow human beings one- to five-star ratings just as they would a crappy novel, defective appliance or unsanitary restaurant bathroom.

News of the app, which is supposed to be released in November, stirred up a massive backlash against Peeple and its CEO, Julia Cordray. Expectedly, critics from all corners of the Internet pointed out how the app wouldn’t function as anything more than a forum for bullying and harassment.

Since the app’s controversial announcement, details of its features remain unclear. Originally, people could not opt in or out off being rated on the app — once their name was mentioned it would remain there forever, regardless of whether that person had their own account. Amid the backlash, the app’s developers discussed changing that aspect, but until Peeple is released in November, it will be difficult to gauge just how toxic it is.

When is the last time the Internet, even on milder social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, served as a meeting ground for tea parties between puppies and unicorns? From the YouTube comment sections to the depths of 4chan, the internet is kind of a rough place.

Cordray, the app’s Canadian CEO — who may serve to prove that Canadians aren’t so nice after all — holds that Peeple is a platform for positivity, on which people can provide constructive ratings to their personal connections, and those who are rated can then embrace the feedback as a way to grow.

“People do so much research when they buy a car or make those kinds of decisions. Why not do the same kind of research on other aspects of your life?”

Maybe because people are not objects under warranty or designed to garner the highest consumer satisfaction?

Even if Peeple were to serve as a forum for users to give and receive valuable feedback (like that’ll happen), it wouldn’t change the fact that there is absolutely no need to know every single thing about each person in your life.

Just because a person may have alienated ties with a coworker or an ex doesn’t mean that person can’t be perfectly decent in every other aspect of life; there is no way for Peeple’s rating system to honestly exhibit that complexity.

A potential employer or significant other has no right to know intrusive personal details about you, especially those that have nothing to do with your direct relationship to them. In the same sense, people shouldn’t feel pressured into opening Peeple accounts and subjecting themselves to a cruel rating system just because others expect them to be “transparent” before being considered for a new relationship.

Providing a playground for public criticism is bound to cause more conflict than evaluating people the old fashion way — with common sense and conversation. People don’t come with warning tags or satisfaction guarantees. They can’t be reduced to star ratings like products or businesses; Peeple will never work as long as it runs under the assumption that they do.


Follow Hailey Dickson on Twitter.



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